A 26-year-old female patient with fulminant hepatic failure and a history of autoimmune hepatitis was heterotopically transplanted with a pig hepatic xenograft to provide temporary metabolic support prior to transplantation with a human donor organ. Circulating natural antipig antibodies were removed prior to transplantation by plasmapheresis and ex vivo en bloc perfusion of the donor pig kidneys. The liver xenograft functioned after transplantation as measured by active bile production, stabilization of prothrombin levels, and reduction in the circulating levels of lactic acid and the enzymes AST and ALT. Despite the removal of greater than 90% of the recipient's natural xenoantibodies prior to transplantation, the levels of antibody rapidly returned and were associated with antibody and complement-mediated rejection of the donor graft. Immunohistochemical evidence of graft rejection could be detected by the deposition of antibody, complement components including properdin, and endothelial swelling as early as 3 hr posttransplantation. These lesions progressed in severity and were accompanied by evidence of thrombosis and ischemic necrosis of the liver xenograft by 34 hrs posttransplantation. The main portal vein, hepatic artery, and vena cava were patent. The placement of the liver graft did not result in any improvement in the neurological status of the patient and she died 34 hr after xenografting due to irreversible brain damage. The information derived from this case has renewed interest in the clinical use of bioartifical devices and whole organ perfusion using xenogeneic tissue for temporary bridging of patients prior to allografting.
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